Phi Beta Cons

Life Lessons

I’ve been rereading examples of a feature the Pope Center started a few years ago called “If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” The aim was to create an “advice column” for students, written by Pope Center interns, who are typically undergraduates or  graduate students. Taken together, they offer a window into student life as practiced by smart young people in college (primarily flagship public universities). I have put some of the themes together into a column on our site.

So what do student mentors advise? Freshmen should speak up in class and get to know their professors, although the reason is not necessarily to learn more. Rather, a professor who knows you might give you a break on your grades in a pinch or write you a good job recommendation. Second, choose your major early if you can, but if you can’t, work around it.

There’s also the matter of negotiating your social life. Don’t over-party; it will hurt you in the end. And stand up for yourself. The most poignant story in this collection is by a young woman who went to a mediocre school because her boyfriend was going there. Bored and uninspired, she changed her mind, got into UNC–Chapel Hill, and seems to have been happy ever since.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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